On this second Sunday of the New Year 2021 we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Today we are reminded of our own baptism and God’s call to each of us to live the Gospel. We are asked by the Church to reflect on how we might live our baptismal call each and every day of our life. Parents, Godparents, indeed all of us who are members of the Church, are reminded that no child grows in faith alone. The familiar saying, “It take a village to raise a child,” is never more clear than when we look at passing on our Catholic faith to children or those new to the faith.
As we all should know, becoming a Catholic, being faithful to Jesus Christ, living the Commandments of loving God and neighbor is not accomplished by the mere pouring of the baptismal water. Baptism only begins a life-long task of growing in faith and love of God and neighbor.
For over 2,000 years babies, young children, teenagers and older men and women, have had the saving waters of Baptism poured upon them in varied places throughout the world. Whether it was in the first wooden frame church, here in our present church or perhaps in an emergency in the hospital; St. Peter's Church has been a place where thousands have received new life in God through Baptism. That passing on of our faith and baptizing new members in the 21st century continues throughout the world.
In the Rite of Baptism for Children, the celebrant says, “You have asked to have your children baptized. In doing so you are accepting the responsibility of training them in the practice of the faith. It will be your duty to bring them up to keep God’s commandments as Christ taught us by loving God and our neighbor. Do you clearly understand what you are undertaking?”
Parents rightly are the first teachers of their children in the ways of faith. The Rite of Baptism makes that point quite clear. Though the words I have placed below are addressed to parents and godparents, just before the Baptism, they are also directed to each of us who belong to this parish and who welcome new members through Baptism. As a baptized member of the Catholic faith, I invite you to reflect upon these words, taken from the 2020 revised Rite of Baptism, on this feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
" Through the Sacrament of Baptism the children you have presented are about to receive from the love of God new life by water and the Holy Spirit. For your part, you must strive to bring them up in the faith, so that this divine life may be preserved from the contagion of sin, and may grow in them day by day. If your faith makes your ready to accept this responsibility, then, mindful of your own Baptism, renounce sin and profess faith in Christ Jesus, the faith of the Church, in which children are baptized." (Rite of Baptism, 2020)
When we present our children or adults to receive Baptism it is the beginning of a life-long journey with God and incorporation into the Christian community.
As we celebrate this feast of the Baptism of the Lord we also come to the completion of the Christmas season. We will return to green vestments and Ordinary Time tomorrow, Monday, January 11. The next change of seasons in the Church will be the beginning of Lent on February 17, Ash Wednesday.
As we come to the end of the Christmas Season and return to Ordinary Time we realize that the last few months, as well as the coming months are far from our ordinary experience. The on-going danger of the COVID virus has altered our "ordinary" way of life. Though vaccines are now being given to help prevent this disease it appears that it will takes months for everyone to have the opportunity to receive the vaccine. News reports these past few weeks are shocking in the growing number of those who have been affected by the virus. And even more tragic is the growing number of people here in Illinois, in other states and throughout the world who have died because of COVID.
What is even more tragic to me is the number of people who continue to deny the danger of this virus. If we say we respect all of life, I wonder how we can justify not wearing a mask in public. In the face of overwhelming scientific evidence of the danger of COVID and the steps we can take to help prevent the spread of this disease, there are still those who put themselves and countless others at risk because of behaviors that ignore medical advice on how to stay safe.
If you make one New Year's resolution this year I would urge you to resolve to do your share of helping prevent the spread of COVID. Resolve to wear a mask, wash your hands frequently, avoid large crowds, read responsible articles from trustworthy medical people about what actions you can do in the face of this disease and remember to pray for those afflicted with the virus. Keep in your prayers and do all you can to support our medical people, those who work in essential jobs (grocery workers, delivery people, those who clean and disinfect buildings, first responders, firefighters, police, military personnel, etc) and all caregivers.
Last Sunday in his reflection, after praying the Angelus, Pope Francis offered the following greeting. I share it with you today for your reflection in the coming week. May you have a safe week.
Pope Francis, Angelus, January 3, 2021, Vatican City
Dear brothers and sisters,
I renew to you all my wishes for the Year that has just begun. As Christians, we tend to shun the mentality of fatalism or magic; we know that things we improve to the extent that, with God’s help, we work together for the common good, placing the weakest and most disadvantaged at the centre. We do not know what 2021 holds for us, but what each one of us, and all of us together, can do is to take care of each other and of creation, our common home.
It is true, there is the temptation to take care only of our own interests, to continue to wage war, for example, concentrating only on the economic aspect, to live hedonistically, that is, seeking only to satisfy our own pleasure… there is that temptation. I read something in the newspapers that saddened me greatly: in one country, I forget which, more than 40 aircraft left, to enable people to flee from the lockdown and to enjoy the holidays. But those people, good people, did they not think about those who stayed at home, about the economic problems faced by many people who have been floored by the lockdown, about the sick? They thought only about taking a holiday for their own pleasure. This pained me greatly.
I address a special greeting to those who begin the new year with greater difficulties, the sick, the unemployed, to those who live situations of oppression or exploitation. And with affection I wish to greet all families, especially those in which there are young children or which are expecting a birth. A birth is always a promise of hope. I am close to these families: may the Lord bless you!
I wish you all a blessed Sunday, thinking always of Jesus who became flesh precisely to dwell with us, in the good things and the bad, always. Please, do not forget to pray for me. Have a good meal, and arrivederci!